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Barry Meadow’s new handicapping book is an instant classic

Updated March 28, 2019 - 7:42 pm

Saturday is a big day of racing, with the Dubai World Cup program, the Florida Derby and a stakes-packed card for the reopening weekend at Santa Anita, but I’m momentarily pulling back from the action to focus on something that can put more money in your pockets in the long run.

I thought the golden age of handicapping books had ended some time ago, but I’m delighted to report that I was wrong.

Barry Meadow’s new tome “The Skeptical Handicapper” is an instant classic, marrying a deep data dive with a thorough exploration of the mental makeup required to be a winning player.

Meadow, who will be familiar to many readers as the author of “Money Secrets at the Racetrack” and the man behind the defunct Meadow’s Racing Monthly handicapping newsletter, waited until he retired to work on the new book.

“I’ve got a library full of handicapping books, and I was rarely satisfied with what I read because people didn’t use statistics,” he told the Review-Journal this week. “Once I retired, I said, ‘I want to do it my way, with data.’ ”

Working with thoroughbred researcher Ken Massa, Meadow analyzed every race run in North America from 2014 through 2017 — more than 168,000 contests — looking for angles that continue to produce positive results — even in the age of algorithms and dramatic last-minute odds shifts.

He did find a few: For example, if you bet every one of the 3,033 2-year-olds who made their debut after recording a “bullet” — the fastest drill of the day at a particular distance — in their final workout during that period you’d have turned a decent 6 percent profit.

But the best part of the book, in my opinion, are the parts where Meadow walks the reader through the many questions that a handicapper needs to answer before deciding how to — or whether to — bet a particular race.

He said a big part of his motivation in writing the book was helping players up their games.

“If I want to be a baseball player at 45, I can practice and practice but I’m never going to make the majors,” he said. “But you can keep improving in horse racing. … Experience counts and knowledge counts and that you get doing it day after day.”

You can order “The Skeptical Handicapper” on Amazon, but you can put a few more pennies in Meadow’s pocket by ordering it directly from his publishing house, TRpublishing.com. The cost is $37.99, and he’ll autograph it and ship it free of charge.

#RJhorseracing featured races

If there’s such a thing as too much racing, Saturday could be it.

Fans who want to watch the Dubai World Cup races, where some of America’s best racehorses will take on the world, will have to crawl out of bed early. The first thoroughbred race is the Godolphin Mile at 5:15 a.m., and the main event — the $12 million Dubai World Cup — is set for 9:40 a.m.

Meantime, the racing world will be watching as Santa Anita reopens Friday after a three-week closure following a spate of fatal injuries to horses. Saturday’s card is packed with five stakes races to make up for lost time.

The #RJhandicappers, however, are focused on Gulfstream Park, where the $1 million Florida Derby will, we hope, provide a few more clues about this year’s so far inscrutable crop of 3-year-olds. Just for good measure, we’re also tackling Race 11 on the card, a $25,000 allowance/optional claiming race for Florida-breds.

In the latter, a 7-furlong dash for 4-year-olds and up, the handicapping crew is backing Restored Hope, the 9-2 second choice on the morning line, over So Long Chuck (8-1), with Gleason (5-1) and Rock Doc (8-1) tied for third.

I’ll take a shot with Candygram (12-1) in hopes the son of Candy Ride will be a bit tighter in his second start off a layoff, with Restored Hope and Gleason rounding out my top three.

In the Grade 1 Florida Derby, the crowd ‘cappers are backing Code of Honor, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, over Harvey Wallbanger (15-1). They see Hidden Scroll, (5-2) the morning line chalk, finishing third.

“Loved the way he moved winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes; working bullets for 2nd off layoff,” wrote Carlo Campanella of the group’s choice.

I’ll go with Maximum Security (9-2) who takes a big step up in class while also attempting to stretch his speed around two turns for trainer Jason Servis. I like Hidden Scroll for second and the late-running Bourbon War to get the show dough.

We start a new free handicapping contest next week, so drop me an email or follow me on Twitter if you’d like to get involved.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Friday. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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